The idea that we can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used in creating them is a strange thought. Generally attributed to Albert Einstein, it’s perhaps a thought that arises when you start contemplating the idea of achieving progress by way of thinking: how can we get beyond the situations we’re in?
Because if we’re in any kind of situation we presumably didn’t know not to enter into it? If situations are like agreements or, more tangibly, spaces, those who knew more might simply have refused to go there – walked on by without engaging with what was on offer. Wherever we are, it’s perhaps because, at some point, we didn’t know better. (Notes One)
If all our encounters are choice points, suggestions we either accept or challenge, then our lives are conceivably the outplaying of our agreements (Notes Two). In accepting a premise about our worth, that of others, or the value of life itself we’re surely then building our lives around that step we’ve taken? Even if we did so unknowingly, trustingly or while distracted by other things.
So, in a way, problems seem to be those things we didn’t yet know. Maybe we didn’t see where they might lead, how one thing leads to another until circumstances close in. Maybe we didn’t grasp what things might mean, the picture we were agreeing to paint, until, stepping back, we began wishing it were different.
Which, I suppose, is simply a new level of insight? After the fact. With the perspective of time, we’ve learnt more and would do things a little differently. We’ve perhaps gained some wisdom from having lived through things, watched how they played out, reflected on issues at stake and that which exacerbates or heals them.
It’s almost as if life is “learning the hard way”: learning those things we didn’t know; finding paths from ignorance to enlightenment; uncovering greater knowledge than we previously possessed. Hopefully, rather than repeating the same dramas of a stuck way of thinking, we’re able to rise above and compassionately see where our ideas are causing problems.
On the personal level, it’s presumably where therapy steps in – someone attempting to help you unearth your thinking then rework it into more healthy or productive patterns. Collectively, I’m unsure there’s a therapeutic equivalent – where within the life of society do comparable conversations happen? Politics? Marketing? Spirituality?
Back to the point, to avoid problems it seems that someone, somehow, needs a new level of insight. If problems exist, it’s arguably due to something we didn’t fully understand or appreciate: facts, relationships, consequences. Rather than placing blame, could we perhaps deepen our understanding and find another way? (Notes Three)
In this light, change seems this vast interpersonal journey of struggles, growth, and constant re-evaluation. This ongoing path toward greater awareness, clearer intentions, a more thorough sense of all that goes into making life work. Then, the challenge of sharing our insights and the sobering realisation that even these solutions might not be the endpoint.
Notes and References:
Note 1: The dignity & power of a human life
Note 1: Working through mind & society
Note 1: The power of understanding
Note 2: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Caught in these thoughts
Note 2: Ideas that tie things together
Note 2: Do we need meaning?
Note 3: Convergence and divergence
Note 3: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 3: Making adjustments
Note 3: Would we be right to insist?
Related to all this, there’s Ways thought adds spin to life which looked further at the role of the mind.